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18 THE FORTUNES AND MISFORTUNES OF MOLL FLANDERS

'Why', says I, 'what can I do? What would you have me do? I was in strait enough before, as I told you, and acquainted you with the circumstances, that I might have your advice.'

'My dear', says he, 'I have been considering very much upon it, you may be sure, and though the advice has many mortifications in it to me, and may at first seem strange to you, yet, all things considered, I see no better way for you than to let him go on, and, if you find him hearty and in earnest, marry him.'

I gave him a look full of horror at those words, and turning pale as death, was at the very point of sinking down out of the chair I sat in; when, giving a start, 'My dear', says he aloud, 'what's the matter with you? Where are you a-going?', and a great many such things; and with jogging and calling to me fetched me a little to myself, though it was a good while before I fully recovered my senses, and was not able to speak for several minutes.

When I was fully recovered he began again. 'My dear', says he, 'I would have you consider seriously of it. You may see plainly how the family stand in this case, and they would be stark mad if it was my case, as it is my brother's; and for aught I see it would be my ruin and yours too.'

'Ay!' says I, still speaking angrily; 'are all your protestations and vows to be shaken by the dislike of the family? Did I not always object that to you, and you made a light thing of it, as what you were above, and would not value; and is it come to this now? Is this your faith and honour, your love, and the solidity of your promises?'

He continued perfectly calm, notwithstanding all my reproaches, and I was not sparing of them at all; but he replied at last, 'My dear, I have not broken one promise with you yet; I did tell you I would marry you when I was come to my estate; but you see my father is a hale, healthy man, and may live these thirty years still, and not be older than several are round us in the town; and you never proposed my marrying you sooner, because you know it might be my ruin; and as to the rest, I have not failed you in anything.'

I could not deny a word of this. 'But why, then', says I, 'can you persuade me to such a horrid step as leaving you, since you have not left me? Will you allow no affection, no love on my side, where there has been so much on your side? Have I made you no returns? Have I given no testimony of my sincerity and of my passion? Are the sacrifices I have made of honour and modesty to you no proof of my being tied to you in bonds too strong to be broken?'

'But here, my dear', says he, 'you may come into a safe station, and appear with honour, and the remembrance of what we have done may be wrapped up in an eternal silence, as if it had never happened; you shall always have my sincere affection, only then it shall be honest, and perfectly just to my brother; you shall be my dear sister, as now you are my dear—' and there he stopped.

Your dear whore', says I, 'you would have said, and you might as well have said it; but I understand you. However, I desire you to remember the long discourses you have had with me, and the many hours' pains you have taken to persuade me to believe myself an honest woman; that I was your wife intentionally, and that it was as effectual a marriage that had passed between us as if we had been publicly wedded by the parson of the parish. You know these have been your own words to me.'